UFC star Rose Namajunas defended anti-communism comments she recently made ahead of her UFC 261 clash with China's Zhang Weili.
Namajunas, whose parents are from Lithuania, said in an interview with a Lithuanian news outlet (h/t ESPN), "it's better dead than red," called Zhang "red" and said freedom is a "huge motivating factor" to her as a fighter.
Appearing Wednesday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on ESPN, Namajunas expanded on her comments to the Lithuanian outlet.
"I'd probably have a really different life if it wasn't for everything in that documentary, how Lithuanians had to struggle with communism oppression. The reason that I brought it up and that I referenced it is because the reporter suggested I had animosity toward past opponents, and that's what maybe caused some motivation in those fights, and in this one there's no animosity so maybe there's a lack of motivation. But that couldn't be further from the truth."
Namajunas added that she views all her opponents as "red" and has no personal issue with Zhang, saying, "I love Weili."
Namajunas noted in the initial interview that her views on communism have been shaped, in part, by the documentary The Other Dream Team, which focused on the Lithuanian men's basketball team partaking in the 1992 Summer Olympics as an independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Namajunas and Zhang share a manager, and Weili has said she would like to be friends with Namajunas following their fight, per ESPN.
In response, Namajunas said: "I don't know her. I know she wants to be friends and all that stuff. It would be great to get to know her, if we could, if it's possible."
The 28-year-old Namajunas is looking to win back the UFC women's strawweight title after dropping it to Jessica Andrade at UFC 237 in 2019.
Namajunas bounced back to beat Andrade at UFC 251 last year after Andrade had already dropped the title to Zhang, and that win improved Namajunas' career record to 9-4.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Weili has essentially been unstoppable, as evidenced by her 21-1 record. Zhang's only loss was in her first professional fight, meaning she is on a 21-bout winning streak.
Zhang is a perfect 5-0 in UFC, including the title win over Andrade and a subsequent defense over Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 last year.
Namajunas will represent arguably the biggest challenge of Zhang's career to date, making for a compelling semi-main event on the April 24 card beneath the UFC welterweight title bout between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal.